Monday, December 7, 2015

16th c. working class Italian gown

It's been over 5 months since the last post and radio silence hasn't been because I haven't been working on anything, it's been because there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I'm working on, maintain a full-time job and (semi) responsible adult life and find the time to blog.

We're doing the SCA pretty full time: Jay is mad about rapier combat, I was merchant steward for the 600 person Baronial event in November, got the Tower Or for service to the Barony, entered my first A&S comp this past weekend (I got a 17/20) and we're planning on doing Gulf Wars in March.   Aaaaaand I needed to garb both Pietro (Jay) and I.  Ironic that now have so many occasions to wear historical clothing that I don't have enough time to sew!  And I now have people to talk with about historical sewing!  oh the bliss!

The first project for me was a gown to replace my Ren Faire bodice and skirts. I rather like the paintings of Vincenzo Campi so I thought I'd make a late 16th century working class Italian gown. Once I had the pattern fine tuned, then I could work on something more elaborate.

The Fruit Seller d. 1580
Vincenzo Campi 

The talented Lady Alessandra Giovanna Fioravanti helped me drape a basic 16th century bodice and I used the skirt from Margo Anderson's Italian Lady's Wardrobe pattern. Since this was a first attempt, I deemed some rust linen/cotton that I had on hand "most expendable" for an alpha test project. I also found some deliciously awful mustard yellow wool felt for the doppia for $8.00 a yard; since it was never going to be seen, it was the perfect bargain.

I wanted to wear the gown ASAP, so I went with  mostly machine construction, following the Margo Anderson pattern instructions, machine quilting the interlining and using zip ties for boning. It's not a technique I'd use again, but I had the gown in a wearable state, in approximately 2 weeks of sewing time sandwiched in between work and real life.

Originally, I used the Margo method of sewing channels for ladder lacing in a ribbon inside the bodice.  I think I misunderstood the method or executed it incorrectly, because it was an epic failure and several channels ripped out first wearing.  Thankfully, a rush order of lacing rings from Renaissance Fabrics solved the problem and also improved the fit a bit although then I ended up losing weight and I ended up having to take it in several inches.  Over the autumn, I  finished a hand sewn partlet and sleeves.  I plan to do a roped petticoat and drawers this winter.

While there are improvements to be made in the next gown (and I'm never satisfied with anything I make) I've had several people tell me I look like I stepped out of a painting, so I must have done something right!

However, since it gets worn so frequently and Meridian events are almost always outside, it's begun to show a bit of wear and tear, (or maybe I'm just tired of only having one gown to wear) so I'm hoping to get a second gown done with all hand sewing completed before Gulf Wars.

I've also done a set of 16th century Ottoman,a set of Viking for Pietro as well as my A&S research that I will try and find time to post about soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Blackberry and cherry and pear.. oh my! (In which our heroine makes cordial and brandy for the first time in years)

Apologies for my lack of progress in trying to blog more regularly.    Jay and I have officially joined the SCA and gone to our first two events.  We met some lovely people and had a great time learning Renaissance dancing last weekend. Jay has also gotten into rapier fighting in the SCA and we have plans to do several more events in the near future.  It's been a busy month!

Despite worrying about everything that was inaccurate about our Ren Faire outfits, I didn't manage to get else anything finished in time for our first events (although I managed to generate a pretty impressive pile of UFOs!) and we ended up wearing our Ren Faire stuff.  As usual, I worried for nothing and Jay cut quite the dash even sans doublet. But sadly, I have no pictures

One of the things I loved to do before in the SCA was making cordials  so the day after our first event,  I pulled out my old recipes, got a few more from some old friends and set out to start my first batches.

Hong Kong Market, an Asian grocery near us always has crazy cheap berries in the summer and I laid in a stock of strawberries ($0.99 a pound!)  cherries and blackberries..and some pears and ginger for good measure.

After pitting and slicing and dicing for hours (and several trips back to the package store  then the market to get the ratio of fruit to alcohol to balance out) I now have the following batches in progress.

Ginger brandy
2 different recipes of Blackberry cordial
Strawberry cordial
Black cherry cordial
Black cherry brandy
2 different recipes of pear brandy

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I'm going to try to start a batch every 3-4 weeks so that by autumn, I should be able to open a batch for most events we go to.  Apricot brandy is next up on the schedule!

Upcoming projects include linen shirts/smock for each of us, a new set of skirts and working class bodice  for me, a doublet for Jay, and one he can fence in, flat caps for both of us and a mid 16th century Venetian gown for me.  It's going to be a busy summer. Watch this space. :) 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Finishing the Hat... really this time!

I am happy to say I am succeeding at my goal of being better at blogging  -this will be my fourth post this month. :)  I am happier still to say I got some actual sewing (well, millinery) done this week. And I am happiest to say this was in service to a UFO I had on my list to finish.

Last year, I made an 1880s hat during Historical Sewing's Online Workshop  However, I'd never finished off the lining and had never really been happy with the feathers I used, so it sat unloved and soooo close to complete.  In the re-organization, I found some antique millinery feathers stranded away from the rest of the millinery box and thought they'd be perfect for the hat.

Today, I needed a handwork project to occupy my afternoon as we spent the afternoon playing Shadowrun at our place and the hat fit the bill.  And I can report that the hat is now complete and I can check it off my goals list!

Amazing what a little change of feathers can do! (Hat before below)

In other news, thanks to some Facebook serendipity, Jay and I have decided to explore the SCA (his first time, my first time back in 20 years..  how did I get so old!)  So he's been pouring over Pintrest trying to decide which eras have clothing he is interested in. So far he seems to Elizabethan, 16th century Hungarian, cotehardies and Viking...  in short just about anything but 15th century Italian.

But I'd been meaning to make the doublet that I never got done before Ren Fest, and since he likes Elizabethan, once the doublet is finished, he's already got an adequate set of first garb.  Yay!

I cut corners on what I wore to Ren Fest (I was really far more focused on what Jay was wearing than I was), so I have a lot to get done before our first event on June 27. I'm currently thinking I will stick with 15th or 16th century Italian.  And wouldn't you know, with all the fabric in the stash, so little is appropriate for pre-18th century.  So I get to feed my fabric addiction!  *manical laugh* can justify buying more fabric for the upcoming projects!

I also had an intriguing conversation at an Anniversary party we went to this weekend.  A friend wants a "duct tape gown" for an "Anything But Clothes" party at Dragon Con.  It's been a while since the "fabric engineer""in me got to come out and play, so I woke up thinking about what technique I'd use.  I am hoping said friend was sober enough to remember the conversation and really want to do it, because this could be an interesting project.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scope Creep (in which our Heroine enters into an orgy of organization)

It all began with having to move a bookcase four inches to the right.  *wry chuckle*

My Bernina sits on a 1930s enamel topped little table that I rescued from someone's trash when I was in college.  But with a second sewing machine again, I needed an additional sewing table.  So when Jay asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him I wanted a sewing table and started doing some online research on exactly which one.

After ruling out all of the ridiculously expensive tables (seriously, do people actually buy the $700+ tables? If so, why?!?!)  I finally settled on this one from WalMart because  this one had drawers and was reasonably priced.  But since it was bigger than my existing table, I would need to move the bookcase slightly to accommodate it.

Jay laughingly said as he was putting the table together that rather than just move the bookcase 4" to the right, I would probably rearrange everything in the room to get the new table in its place.  In retrospect, he wasn't far off. Did I mention I can be a bit OCD?

Thus began a veritable orgy of organization. While I'd tidied it up in March; the sewing room was bursting at the seams (pun intended) with everything that was in it and the costume closet nearly exploded when I went to pull Jay's doublet out for Ren Faire. I really needed some additional storage space or better organization or..something.  So I started by trying to organize all the pieces parts and fiddly bits from the costume closet.  This quickly took over the whole sewing room.

And the pic above doesn't show all the costumes still hanging in the actual closet.  I'd often thought about moving the whole costume closet down to the cutting room err game room that I happen to have my cutting table in and getting some commercial clothing racks to corral the costumes we have. This seemed like the time to Just. Do. It.

Several trips  to the Container Store later, I had rendered a second room of the house temporarily unusable until I completed this project.  I'd found a book on Renaissance velvets with lots of pics from the V&A collection in the antique store where we bought my 1920 Singer, so I was daydreaming of 15th century Italy and itching to start a new project.

But thanks to the Memorial Day long weekend with no plans and working like a demon, (nothing like wanting to be able to sew again to motivate a girl!) I am happy to say that  everything is OCD organized and the costumes and all attendant fiddly bits are now happily sharing space with Jay's comic books and our collection of gaming books.

Better still, I  broke down and organized the shelves downstairs and refiled all the stray pattern pieces adding a hook to hang my drafting rules from, moved all my fabric for toiles down to the cutting room. did some framing that needed to be done.. and just generally kicked some arse, organizationally speaking. (Photo bomb in the pic below by Samuel L Catson)

The new sewing table next to the bookcase that started all this frenzy.

Now I just need to figure out what I want to sew!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Costumes for the Ren Fest..(Wherein our Heroine muses on costuming and the internet)

I am inordinately pleased to say that I actually accomplished one of my goals for the year:  costumes for Jay and I for the Georgia Renaissance Festival.  We went last weekend with our friends Robert and Bill.

Despite Jay having a leather jerkin and a leather doublet already, he decided it was too warm the day we went so he in just his shirt.(Georgia is an "authenticity lite" faire, so despite this huge sartorial faux pas, he was still one of the better dressed men there)  I'd been planning on doing him a doublet and a flat cap but I declared both of them out of scope 10 days before the faire and, sanity wise, I'm glad I did.  Not to mention the words we would have had if I rushed to finish a doublet and then he decided not to wear it!  Other than a minor disaster requiring a bit of hand sewing the morning we were getting dressed, I was done sewing the afternoon before.  No mad midnight frenzy of last minute sewing!

I plan to complete the doublet and cap this summer when we're not on a hard deadline and probably a pair of German style pluderhosen to go with his doublet flat cap

I thought Faire clothes would be a relatively comfortable project, since I'd done so much of this sort of sewing while I was in the SCA.  Unfortunately, I have none of the patterns I drafted during that period (I am still wondering where my sanity was when I gave them away rather than move them *sigh*) So when I started this whole project, I pulled out my previous go-to reference for Elizabethan costuming...

..and found it sadly wanting.  Which got me to thinking about how much costuming has changed with the Internet. When I started costuming in the SCA, other than the Period Patterns line (which you could only buy if you ran into Medieval Miscallanea at an SCA event) there were no patterns. I learned quickly to recognize the lines of the garment I wanted to make and to franken-pattern from commercial patterns available (assuming I could find one in my size) and fake the rest.  It wasn't a whole lot better for later time periods, either.  In 1989, I was over the moon to find the original Amazon Dry Goods catalog (I was even lucky enough to visit  the old store in Davenport, IA)  When I got my hands on a print copy of the Whole Costumer's Catalogue, I thought I'd died and went to heaven.

In 2015, it's such a different world! There are so many small press pattern companies  offering historical patterns now. Admittedly, some better than others but there are several pattern review sites I can read opinions from people that have used the pattern already. Major museums are putting their collections online so I can research in the middle of the night in my pajamas rather than having to fund a trip to go to the V&A. (or the Met, or the Kent State Museum.).  I can keep track of my research on Pintrest and access it anywhere I have access to the 'net. (like in the fabric store where I want to check a key detail)  If I get lazy, I can buy a finished piece from Etsy.

While I still desperately rue my lack of having a local "fitting buddy" I am still a bit in awe of the plethora of resources available for costuming these days.  And, I can't help thinking a bit wistfully, that I wish I was 20 years younger.  Maybe I wouldn't take that 20 year hiatus if I was making the decision now.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A new sewing machine .....x2

It all started last month with my incorrigible habit of inserting myself into interesting conversations in public places. I was in Hancock Fabrics looking for waistband interfacing when I heard one of the clerks say:  "....  well, Tardis blue is a really pretty shade of royal blue..  I have no idea what I am going to do with it, but it was so buttery soft that I had to buy all of it!"

To which I said:  "Oh the Tandy leather sale?"    And found myself chatting with said clerk.  Who as it turns out works part time at God Save the Queen Fashions which is a small costume studio specializing in cosplay costumes.  Really Really Really good cosplay costumes.

And  GSTQ offers classes on weekends!  Classes on things like corset making techniques, glove making, wig care and styling and pattern alteration.  While I would consider myself far more on the historical side than the cosplay side of costuming, any sort of  opportunity to improve my skills by learning from someone is extremely welcome.  My costuming support network is entirely online and I have sorely missed being face to face with costuming folk..

But I was a little concerned about carting my Bernina back and forth.  It has been an absolute work horse and, in the five years I've had it, hasn't given me any trouble that re-threading the machine and the bobbin couldn't solve.  I didn't want to jinx it.

I'd been idly thinking about buying a second sewing machine for a while..  because if the Bernina did give me trouble,  it would be at the worst possible moment and I would be dead in the water.  And getting a truly portable machine that I could take to classes was the extra rationalizat justification that I needed to start looking at a second machine.

Me being me, my web research quickly discarded the $100ish Project Runway model and lead me to a Pfaff Passport 2.0.  Thirteen pounds light, did as much, if not more than my Bernina and was universally loved by quilters to take back and forth to quilting classes.  I have never quilted in my life (and don't intend to start) but it seemed to indicate that the machine was good with being moved frequently.

So I bought myself a new machine as an early birthday present.  And it was a timely early present, because my Bernina stopped sewing the Sunday before we were going to the Georgia Ren Fest and our garb was far from done!

Today, through a series of extremely serendipitous events, I acquired my second machine today: a beautiful 1920 Singer treadle.

The place we were going for my birthday brunch lost our reservations and since it was already overflowing because of Mother's Day, we opted for Plan B:  my favorite diner (the Landmark Jr) which happens to be just down the street from my favorite antique mall (Antiques and Beyond) I think that a third of our house has come from there over the years.  we can't ever seem to leave empty handed.  And today, in the very last row of the mall, there she amazing condition. According to the dealer, other than needing a belt, she works.

After a brief consultation, she met the "where will we put it?" question which is our primary criterion for antique buying.  Better still, the dealer was in need of space and accepted my opening offer of 33% under his asking price without a blink. Best of all, she fit in the back of our Jetta Sportwagen.

So now she is safely ensconced in a corner of our living room with Lucy, my 1914 dressmaker's form that I've had since college.

I'm not sure how much sewing she will actually see, but she is just the sort of interesting antique that our decor is comprised of, so she fits in perfectly.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Turning the lights back on

Despite radio silence on the blog for the past three (has it really been that long?!) months, there has indeed been some sewing going on. :)  I need to get better at taking the blog posts in my head and making them a reality.

The Tang dynasty project is on hold for the time being. The 5000 Years of Chinese Costume book had absolutely nothing regarding the hezi in it, so I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to documentation. The silk brocades I  brought back from Taipei are too heavy. And I need to put work into on overall concept and colours before I move forward.  The Asian color aesthetic is difficult to get my head around.  Or perhaps I'm just justifying the need to watch more gorgeous Chinese costume dramas like The Empress of China...  either way, I do not have a current need in 2015 for a Tang dynasty outfit, so its been moved to the back burner.

I've also decided not to push to do the Historical Sew Monthly this year.  I was wildly creative doing the half year I did of it in 2014 but it was an epic fail in coming up with costume pieces that were useful for my costuming closet.  So I am going to enjoy watching the gorgeousness from the sidelines with popcorn this year.

In lieu of that, I have set myself the following goals.  I am woefully poor when it comes to follow through on projects.  Combine this with limited time to devote to costuming (an uninterrupted three hour stretch in the sewing room is a miracle) and I am trying to lower the bar a bit and set some more manageable objectives.

The first step was to clean up the sewing room.  It was full to bursting, hadn't really been used since last spring and was definitely in need to some attention.  Once I gave it some organizational love, it was amazing how much higher my will to sew was.

Introducing the new and improved sewing room:

 Part I of the stash wall

 Part II of the stash wall and Lucy my vintage 1914 dummy

 My research library

 My idea/miscellany boards and Mimi, my modern dummy

Where I actually sew

The big win was moving my pattern collection down to the cutting room in the basement and everything is now organized by time period. I am lucky enough to have two rooms to spread out in. *happy dance*

Based on the amount of fabric and number of patterns I have, 
clearly I need to do more actual sewing!

Goal #1 for 2015:
Clean Up My UFO pile

My completion rate is pretty good, but I do have some projects that have been in the UFO pile for a number of years).

So far I've managed to finish off the hand sewing on the 1880s bloomers I submitted for last year's HSF #8. (ironically, the UFO challenge) and finally added the second row of trim on the 1890s capelet I submitted for my very first HSF challenge in 2013. (I said some of them had been sitting for a while *blush*).  Which leaves half a dozen projects left to tackle this year including finishing my 1880s hat, taking a first mockup of a 1940s dress to completion as well as  a mockup of the TV 1880s corset.  Any bets on how far I will get by December 31?

Goal #2 for 2015
Ren Faire Outfits for Jay and I

The  Georgia Renaissance Festival runs April 18 through June 7.  Jay and I are planning on going Mother's Day weekend.  I have various pieces currently in progress for both of us and will blog more on those separately once they are closer to complete.

 Sam supervising my cutting out the waistband for Jay's breeches

Goal #3 for 2015
Steampunk Alice in Wonderland outfits for The Great Canadian Steampunk Exposition

The theme for the Great Canadian Steampunk Exposition this year is Alice in Wonderland.  The event is in a cool historical fort in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario in late September.  The moment I heard the theme, I had ideas dancing through my head.  We're adults with decent jobs, so flying out for it isn't completely crazy. (Flying with multiple costumes may be, though!)

Right now we are thinking of doing the Queen of Hearts/White Rabbit at the Trial

And I also have a crazy vision of Jay in a fez and a smoking jacket (I've been dying for a reason to make him a smoking jacket!) as the caterpillar, walking around the event, asking people: Whoooooo. Arrrrrrrre. Yooooooooooou?

More details post Ren Faire, once I start actually get past the pintrest idea of this project.  But this is going to be something fun to spend the summer on!

Goal #4 for 2015
Blog on a semi regular schedule
I am  bad at finishing projects and taking progress pictures, so I am going to try to start doing shorter posts as the inspiration hit rather than large scale "project start to finish" posts.  We will see how successful I am at this.

Anyway, the lights are on in the sewing room again and I hope to share more about my sewing adventures (and misadventures) soon!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Serendipity Strikes

So I've been debating about whether I was going to try the Historical Sew Fortnightly this year, especially since its one project a month, rather than two.  But it's already almost halfway through January, so I needed to make a decision soon.

But I also wanted to pursue the Tang Dynasty project and the January HSF challenge was foundations. I am still waiting for 5000 Years of Asian Costume to arrive, so I googled "Tang Dynasty Undergarments" on a lark.

And I found the most amazing blog: Dressed Up Dreams.  It is alas, mostly dormant now, but was a wealth of research on Tang Dynasty costumes.  (The blogger seems to be from Singapore and fluent in Chinese and English, and used sources from the original Chinese, which is absolutely invaluable, since my Chinese is verbal only and limited to simple phrases like: "thank you" and "no more thank you, I'm full")

In a nutshell, this lovely blogger has done all the research I need to not only get started on the Tang project,but also start work on the first HSF challenge!  The strapless part of a Tang noble lady's ensemble is called a Hezi and it was first worn by Imperial Consort Yang, when she used a piece of embroidered cloth to cover scratches her lover had made.  Other court ladies adopted the look and by the later part of the Tang Dynasty, the hezi was a standard garment.  Don't you love trend setters!

(pictures are from Dressed Up Dreams research.  The link to the original article in Chinese did not appear to be working.  I am unable to provide more accurate  attribution to the original source, but will be happy to do so if someone can direct me to it)

Now I just need to work on drafting a pattern based on Dressed's research, getting it to fit *wince* and then deciding what fabric to use and making the Hezi,

Much more to come in the coming days, but I am delighted to have "completed" my research for the project in one fell swoop.  I am off to bed to have Chinese brocade dreams.!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year's Inspirations

I know this blog has been dark for 6 months, but I am happy to say I think I am inspired again!  I am still bothered a bit by the tendinitis, but am feeling the urge to play with fabrics once more.

I have been reading Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars and am thinking about (pseudo) historical Asian costuming again.  A couple of years ago, I spent time playing with Heian era Japanese clothing, (precursors of what we think of as kimono today)..  This time I think I'll be playing in China. I've had a Tang dynasty outfit in the back of my head since the first time I watched Curse of the Golden Flower. Better still, I still have much of the silk brocade that came home from our 2011 trip to Taipei in my stash.

I am anxiously awaiting a copy of 5000 Years of Chinese Costume that I bought from Amazon with a gift card I got for Christmas in hopes that it will help me understand the whole strapless undergown thing, whose construction details elude me despite repeated watching of CotGL and pouring over pictures of the costumes in an exhibit.  

As to Western costuming, my Christmas present to myself was a Victorian and an Titanic era corset during Redthreaded's pre-order for her plus sized  historical corset line.  Since I failed in making myself a corset despite two separate classes in 2014,  I am hoping that this will get me over my roadblock and onto some late Victorian/1910s costuming this year.  (and there is still the 1860s-esque ball gown for the King and I cosplay that Jay and I have been talking about for Dragon-Con one year...  who knows, maybe this is the year!)  I have heard nothing but good things about Redthreaded's work and am excitedly waiting for my package to arrive.

I also bought Jay an 1830s frock coat and pants from RecontructingHistory's closet sale.  Both pieces will take a little alteration to fit him, but the measurements were close enough that it seemed a serendipitous addition to his costume closet. Neither of us have much interest in the 1830s specific (it's actually a period of women's clothing that I especially dislike) but I am hoping that it can pass as late regency, which is an era we have some vague interest in.  (and will require yet another style of corset for me..  )

And so, gentle readers, the light in the sewing room has been turned on again and I am hoping 2015 will be a creative and productive year for me.  Watch this space!